If you are a horse owner, you may have wondered whether you are feeding your horses the right way. The subject of equine diet and nutrition is not that simple.

If you are a horse owner, your primary goal should be to ensure that your horses are getting the kind of feed options they would get in the wild. Your horses should also be able to pick and choose between different kinds of forages, hay and roughage, as they like.

Grass & Hay for your Horses:

Forage should be the foundation of the horse’s diet. Horses have a smaller stomach compared to other non-ruminant animals, and so, they must graze constantly to stay nourished, rather than having one or two large meals per day.

Horses evolved overtime, with physical arrangements better suited for grazing. As we started keeping horses in colder regions, they became adapted and well-suited to thrive on hay and other conserved forages.

horse feeding

Basic principles of feeding hay to your horses :

  • Hay and other roughage makes your horses full and also provide most essential nutrients they need.
  • A horse needs about two percent of dry matter of its body weight per day (A 1000 lb horse will need 20 lbs of feed on a dry matter basis).
  • The type of nutrients your horse needs will depend on its age, size, and class.
  • All hay is not created equal.

Adding Grains to horse’s diet:

Non-working horses can have their daily protein and energy requirements met from quality pasture grasses alone. So, you wouldn’t need to feed your horses any grains unless your horses are engaged in heavy work, growing, breeding, or lactating.

Supplementing horse’s diet:

You will only need to add a supplement or concentrate (grain mix), if necessary. It would only be needed if your horse does not get enough protein or calories from your pasture grasses. It would depend on the workload and condition of the horse.

“Supplementation above forage and concentrates should only be done if the forage and concentrate portion of the ration still needs to be balanced to meet the vitamin, mineral and protein requirement of the horse. All horses should be provided with clean fresh water and a trace mineral salt block.” –  My Horse University   

horse feed

Tips on commercial grains and supplements:

  1. There are loads of commercial supplements available on the market, so make sure you speak with your supplier or feed retailer and select what’s best for your animals.
  2. Make sure you are feeding according to the recommendations or directions.
  3. If you are using a commercially prepared quality feed in recommended amounts, you may not need to supplement vitamins and minerals. Many of the commercial feed brands prepare their feed with all needed nutrients in balance.
  4. Some of the premium horse feeds brands already contain yeast and/or probiotics for gut health, and several contain biotin and methionine – the two key components of a lot of hoof supplements.  
  5. Good nutrition, healthy balanced feeding and proper nutrition will ensure good joint health for your horses. Some horses may need additional support. If your commercial feed does not contain enough ingredients for joint support, you may need to supplement their feed.

Hope our tips will be helpful for your horses. We’ll post tips for horse nutrition and care each week on our blog site, so please check our blogs regularly. For any questions or comments, contact us or leave a comment below.